Law minister Anisul Huq said on Tuesday that the government was considering framing rules under the Digital Security Act so stop arrest and the recording of cases under the law without an inquiry into the allegations while law experts said that only by repealing the act its misuse would be stopped.
The minister’s remark came amid the ongoing protests at home and abroad for the repeal of the act after right activist and writer Mushtaq Ahmed died in jail on February 25 following repeated denial of bail in a case filed under the DSA.
Legal experts also said that mere framing of rules or any amendment to the act would not stop its abuse or misuse unless the law was scrapped.
They termed the act a draconian law as it infringes fundamental rights and freedom of expression, thoughts and also the freedom of the press.
Anisul Huq said that the government would take steps to stop the direct filing of any DSA case and arrest of any accused on the basis of a complaint without any inquiry. ‘If any complaint is filed, the police will be required to hold a primary inquiry first and a case can only be recorded on the basis of the inquiry,’ he added. The minister, however, did not talk about the timeframe regarding when the rules would be framed.
He said that the new provision of recording any DSA case and arrest could be inserted in the law without making an amendment to it.
Asked to comment on the law minister’s remarks, Appellate Division’s former Justice Md Abdul Matin referred to the Digital Security Act as a ‘draconian law’ as there are many provisions there to raise objections.
‘We do not want such a law,’ Justice MA Matin said, adding, ‘Had there been any problem running the county when the law did not exist?’
He said that a mere amendment or framing a rule would not prevent the law enforcement agencies from harassing the citizens of the country.
The misuse of the law will continue if the law exists, Justice Matin said.
Senior lawyer MI Farooqui advocated in favour of scrapping the law, saying that the US citizens criticised former US president Donald Trump in many ways, did the Trump administration filed any defamation case against the citizens?
‘Our government can also ignore such criticism as voicing one’s concern is every citizen’s fundamental right,’ Farooqui argued.
Jurist Shahdeen Malik said that the Digital Security Act 2018 must be annulled as ‘gaging the freedom of speech of citizens is the main objective of the law’.
‘Nowhere in the world, except in countries run by monarchs, can such a law be accepted which is used to prosecute the citizens on the ground of tarnishing the image of the ruler,’ said Shahdeen.
He said that even the British ruler did not think of such a law.
Human Rights lawyer Manzill Murshid said that people from all walks of life have been opposing some of the provisions relating to the obstruction of freedom of expression and the press in the Digital Security Act. ‘Though the government at different times made promises to prevent the misuse of the act, it never acted on them,’ he added.
Supreme Court lawyer Jyotirmoy Barua said that the government was misleading the people saying that the framing of the rules would prevent the law enforcement agencies from harassing the citizens.
‘I want to see the law scrapped, otherwise it would continue to be applied to harass the citizens,’ Jyotirmoy Barua said.
Supreme Court lawyer and right activist Md Asaduzzaman said that the citizens would continue falling victim to political harassment if the law is not repealed as each government would use it as a tool to gag the dissenting voices.
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